A Bolton theatre artistic director rushed to save the day and made her performing debut, playing 11 roles on stage, to keep shows running after cast illnesses.

Three cast members of Octagon Theatre's musical adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days over the Christmas weekend were unable to perform due to illness.

Olivia Chandler, the swing actor for the production, took on the role of Phileas Fogg’s trusted butler Passepartout and local actor Jacob Butler stepped in after one rehearsal to play the role of undercover journalist Khatri.

However, the real star of the show was artistic director Lotte Wakeham, who made her Octagon performing debut by playing the part of Lady Eliza Sullivan and 10 other supporting characters - including a farmer, a jailer, a newspaper boy, and the gangster Al Capone - for three performances of the Octagon’s hit festive show.

Audiences were treated to the special line up on Friday, December 22, and Saturday December 23.

The team pulled together to create costumes, practice quick changes and of course step into unfamiliar roles to ensure families were not disappointed this festive season.

Lotte said: “We know that a trip to the theatre is a beloved festive tradition for many families, so we didn’t want to let our audiences down and we wanted to avoid cancelling as many performances as possible.

“We had prepared for some illness and additional cover to keep the show going but with three of the original cast not well enough to perform we needed to go the extra mile to ensure the show went ahead. 

“Liv and Jacob did a fantastic job stepping in and I’m hugely grateful to the whole team for getting me through my Octagon performing debut so smoothly.

“The role I took on involved multiple characters and 12 quick costume changes – it was a brilliant reminder to me of the incredible achievements of our actors and backstage team who go through this several times a week during the festive period to entertain our audiences!

The Bolton News: Cast backstage - Polly Lister, Olivia Chandler, Robert Jackson, Jacob Butler, Lotte Wakeham, Charlotte Linighan and Lotte WakehamCast backstage - Polly Lister, Olivia Chandler, Robert Jackson, Jacob Butler, Lotte Wakeham, Charlotte Linighan and Lotte Wakeham (Image: Octagon Theatre)“I’m truly in awe of everyone working on this production and the amount of care, calmness, and good humour from everyone front of house, backstage and on stage.

“The whole team really supported me (and Jacob and Liv) and I'm delighted that the shows were able to go ahead.

“The audiences were wonderful and also very supportive, and it was an electric atmosphere at the Octagon on Friday and Saturday.

“The original cast are now thankfully all back and feeling much better so I am hoping my performing services will not be required further!

“Thank you to the whole team and of course to our audiences for their understanding and generosity - we hope they enjoyed their festive outing at the Octagon.”

Following the performances, the audience gave the performers standing ovations.

Lotte has been artistic director of the Octagon since early 2019, and this was the first time that circumstances have led to her taking on an emergency performing role at the theatre.

The last time Lotte stepped into a performance was almost 14 years ago in early 2010, as an assistant director at the Almeida Theatre in London, in the hit production of Rope by Patrick Hamilton.

She provided last minute cover for an actor who was stuck on a train and made her performing debut alongside a stellar cast including Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Bertie Carvel.

Around the World in 80 Days is playing until Saturday, January 6 with tickets available from £15.

Find out more and book your tickets: octagonbolton.co.uk

If you have a story or something you would like to highlight in the community, please email me at chloe.wilson@newsquest.co.uk or DM me on X @chloewjourno.